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Hashing out the #MeToo problem of sexual harassment at law firms

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Countless attorneys are in the business of helping victims of sexual harassment. They employ their skills, knowledge, and experience in their aggressive pursuit of justice.

Yet for an alarming number of attorneys, that specific legal practice has become personal, if not relatable. While at work, they face frequent harassment from their peer lawyers and supervisors, many in the same practice of representing victims of hostile work environments.

The famed #MeToo movement has brought attention to sexual harassment worldwide. Born in Hollywood following revelations about film producer Harvey Weinstein as a serial predator, it soon found its way into the corporate world. Corporations then turned to law offices to advise them on dealing with sexual harassment, but many firms have failed to investigate their own practices.

Simply put, law offices have been committing their own hostile acts while holding others in positions of power accountable.

According to a survey by the International Bar Association (IBA), half of female lawyers have experienced bullying on the job, and one-third have suffered sexual harassment at work. The survey also revealed smaller numbers of harassment of male attorneys. One in three experienced bullying at work, with 7% being sexually harassed.

As is true for the general population, lawyers underreport incidents of sexual harassment: the survey reflects that only 25% of the sexual harassment incidents experienced by attorneys were reported.

Data was culled from nearly 7,000 online responses from attorneys throughout 135 countries. Even with significant cultural differences, a consensus of lawyers asserted that sexual harassment is “common,” and bullying is “rife” in their industry.

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